Tag Archives: nelson

The Countdown — Time to Think About 2019

By. Neil Williamson, President

Recognizing today is the ‘Morning After’ Election Day 2018, it may seem premature to start talking about 2019.  It’s not.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the vast majority of the candidates for the 2019 races will make their decisions in the next 60 days.

That’s right, by the time you watch the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, who will be on the ballot in November (and the primaries) will likely already be determined.

Wait, we just had an election.

Yes, this is Virginia, we love elections so much we vote EVERY year.  What are we voting for in 2019?  So glad you asked — from Virginia’s Board of Elections:image

Some might look at that list (on the left) and believe this is not that important an election, we think otherwise.

While the Federal and statewide offices get a significant amount of publicity (and paid advertising), it is the local races that bring government home.  These are the elected officials you run into at the grocery store AND who control your property taxes, school spending as well as the majority of your land use decisions.

Who is up?

In addition to the House of Delegates, Virginia Senate, School Boards and Constitutional officers, here is the list for Board of Supervisors and City Council –

Albemarle County: Board of Supervisors Ann Mallek, White Hall; Rick Randolph, Scottsville; Norman Dill, Rivanna

Charlottesville:  Wes Bellamy, Kathy Galvin, Mike Signer [important note Primary Date is June 11th]

Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors Mozell Booker, Fork Union; Patricia Eager, Palmyra

Greene County Board of Supervisors David Cox, Monroe;  Michelle Flynn, Ruckersville; Dale Herring, At Large

Louisa County Board of Supervisors Willie Gentry, Cuckoo; Troy Wade, Louisa; Toni Williams, Jackson;

Nelson County Board of Supervisors  Thomas Bruguiere, Jr, West; Larry Saunders, South

Without question local (and state) government impacts your life.

The question is who will step up to fill these important leadership positions.

  • Will the current incumbents run again?
  • Will they have any opposition?
  • Who will step up?
  • Will there be a primary challenge?
  • Do you know someone who should run?
  • Should you run for office?

Once again we have more questions than answers but this much we do know – the candidates (and their families) will likely decide by NYE 2019.

The Free Enterprise Forum maintains an open door policy to talk with anyone regarding running for local office and what is required to serve.

As a non-partisan organization, we do not endorse candidates but we do support contested elections.  We believe uncontested elections make untested officials.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

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Greene Supervisors Hears Five Year Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

It makes good common sense to hope for the best but plan for the worst.  For Virginia localities it is more than common sense, it is mandated by state law.clip_image002

In response to this requirement, Billie Campbell, Senior Program Manager, and Wood Hudson, Planning Manager, of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission  addressed the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their first meeting of October (10/10). They presented a draft of the 2017 Update of the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan . The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 set out requirements for State and local governments to update their plans every five (5) years.

clip_image005The purpose of plan is prepare for natural disasters before they occur and it covers all jurisdictions in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District – Albemarle County,  the City of Charlottesville, Greene County, Louisa CountyFluvanna County, Nelson County, and the towns of Scottsville, Stanardsville, Louisa and Mineral. The first plan was approved in 2006, then in 2012 and it is now due to be updated by December 17, 2017.

In August a draft of Regional HMP was submitted to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) who will then forward it to FEMA for their review and comments and once they have approved it, each jurisdiction must adopt the plan.

According to the draft plan:

Natural hazards tend to be low-probability, high-impact events. One year could be mild with natural
events scarcely interrupting communities, while the next could be literally disastrous. The purpose of hazard mitigation is to make an effort to minimize the damage and loss of life caused by disasters when they do occur. Hazard mitigation is one component, along with emergency response and post-disaster recovery, to the larger strategy of dealing with the human impacts of natural hazard

With more people living in areas susceptible to natural hazards, the costs associated with such hazards have been steadily increasing over time. The localities of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (the Counties of Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa, and Nelson, the City of Charlottesville, and the Towns of Scottsville, Columbia, Stanardsville, Louisa, and Mineral) are impacted by variety of different hazards. In order to lessen the growing cost of disaster recovery on the localities and minimize the disruption of business during a disaster, there is a growing need to mitigate the impact of known hazards. Through proper planning and the implementation of policies and projects identified in this Hazard Mitigation Plan, the region and the localities can reduce the likelihood that these events will result in costly disasters.

The Hazard Identification and Analysis section of the plan describes natural hazards which pose the greatest threat to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Hazards are profiled in terms of prevalence, intensity, and geographical scope. The section includes a description of the hazard as well as analysis based upon historical and scientific data.

The specific areas of the plan are:

        1. flooding and dam failure
        2. winter weather
        3. wildfire
        4. temperature extremes, drought and landslides, and
        5. tornado and earthquakes.

The plan calculates a risk factor for each event within the TJPDC study area.

Hazard-Mitigation_full_doc

Within each category are specific actions recommended to be taken that include describing the hazard, potential mitigation, lead responsible entity, estimated cost, funding method and the time period of the issue.

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Campbell asked that the Board consider making the resolution supporting the plan. All of the supervisors supported the plan but wanted to wait until the second board meeting of the month to allow time for them to review the proposal. The request was deferred until the October 24, 2017 meeting and it is hoped that the Supervisors will approve the resolution at that time.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Local Government Spending Index Released

Study Finds Disparity in Local Government Spending

Charlottesville, VA – As political candidates are vying for election and local governments are starting their FY2019 budget process, a new study shows that the rate of increases in local government spending vary dramatically. The “Choices and Decisions” report, conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum, is based on an independent locality-specific local government spending index (LGSI). The report, which studied fiscal years 1990-2016, identified Nelson County as the locality with the greatest increase in LGSI with Albemarle County a close second.

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “The goal of the LGSI is to inform and promote dialog. The comparison of local spending trends, combined with population data provides citizens an objective tool to evaluate spending decisions. Equipped with this data, citizens can ask better questions of elected officials during the elections and budget season”.

The LGSI is based on self-reported data required to be provided to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts. The numbers focus exclusively on the operating budget of each municipality. This number will not include capital expenditures thus avoiding having single-year spikes in capital spending skew the results or interpretation of the data.

It has been theorized that inflation adjusted spending would largely track changes in population and school enrollment. While a correlation was found in some localities studied, this trend was not universal:

Albemarle County – adjusted for inflation, Albemarle County’s total spending increased by over 152% during the study period while population and school enrollment increased by 55% and 36% respectively.

clip_image004City of Charlottesville – During the study period (1990-2016), Charlottesville experienced a population increase of almost 23%, the second smallest of the municipalities being studied. In addition, Charlottesville experienced a cumulative growth in school enrollment of just over 1%. In contrast, inflation-adjusted operating expenditures increased over 80% during the study period.

It was also theorized that growth in inflation-adjusted per capita spending among the localities would be similar because of the high percentage of programs mandated by the state and operated by the localities.

In contrast, the analysis clearly indicates wide variation in per-capita spending decisions made by the localities. During the study period, four localities had roughly 50% increase in per capita spending, while two, Albemarle and Nelson, increased per capita spending by over 60%.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization dedicated to individual economic freedom. The entire report, and supporting documentation, can be accessed under Reports Tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Economic Development Via Regulatory Reform

By. Neil Williamson, President

employmentopportunitiesLocal economic development is about much more than just businesses moving into an area.  It is also about jobs and adding a new enterprise to the community.  While there are many paths to enhancing the local climate for economic development there are even more ways to create a regulatory environment that is openly hostile to such opportunities. 

Yesterday, a bipartisan group of Virginia’s congressional delegation (Griffith, Hurt, Kaine, Warner) introduced legislation designed to reform the federal permitting process.  The Augusta Free Press reports:

…introduced the Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act (H.R. 3434 and S. 1914) in both houses of Congress.  This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will address regulatory problems that have impeded prospective economic development sites like Berry Hill Mega Park in the Danville-Pittsylvania County area.

When local entities work to secure a site preparation permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to attract job-creating manufacturing firms, the Corps has often been reluctant to issue the permit if there is a lack of a company that has publicly committed to the site and prepared detailed blueprints.  A company will understandably not establish a facility at the site without an approved permit, but a permit cannot be approved without a company willing to locate at that site, creating an unfortunate stalemate situation.  The Commonsense Permitting for Job Creation Act specifies that the lack of a committed end-user company should not be a reason to deny a permit that meets all other legal requirements.

This “commonsense” federal legislation got me thinking about how local regulatory reform can improve economic development. 

Does the amount of time it takes to move a project from concept to moving dirt matter to a potential employer?

Should those charged with increasing the locality’s economic vitality spend a portion of their time looking inwardly to improve the permitting and approval process?

Based on our dozen years in the region, there is little or no uniformity to the regulatory environments of Central Virginia municipalities.

We regularly hear horror stories of projects that are taken to the brink of their very viability by overzealous (and often incorrect) interpretations and implementations of permitting.  We also have heard of local building officials giving contradicting interpretations.

We also hear of reasonable regulators who work with applicants to see that the letter of the law is followed and the project remains viable.

There are also significant differences in the time it takes to gain approvals from the localities.

If localities could identify procedural changes that could reduce the development process timeline without sacrificing public input or project quality, would they do it?

One such example is allowing the special use permit process and the site plan approval run concurrently.  Many Virginia localities do this now.  The reality is that these days many special use permits have a condition that the final site plan must come back for final approval to the Planning Commission.  Considering the significant amount of detail now required for SUP, adding the site plan approval (as a concurrent approval option)  could reduce the regulatory calendar by several months.

Of course there are some in the community that see the labyrinth of regulatory red tape as an opportunity to slow or halt increased economic development. 

The question each locality must answer is what level of economic vitality are you seeking and are your municipality’s ordnances, policies and procedures “shovel ready” for such opportunities?

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

20070731williamson

Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Why 2013 is a “GOTV” or “Turnout” Election

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

BY. Neil Williamson, President

One day left.

Citizens and candidates alike look forward to the end of the election season. As one local incumbent described the process to me recently, “There’s two ways to run, unopposed or scared”.

Regionally, we have one of the most robust ballots in recent history.  While we do not have opponents to our sitting state legislators (which is regrettable), the vast majority of the local elections are contested.  Simply put contested elections make candidates explain and defend their positions thus making the public better informed and generates better policy after the election. 

By virtue of reading this post, you tend to be one of the more engaged community members.  By now, you likely know who is running for local office in your locality.  Hopefully, you know where they stand on issues that are important to you and you have selected the candidate that best represents your views. 

Here in Virginia we like elections so much we hold them every year.  This year is an “off-year” election meaning there are no Federal offices on the ballot but there is a gubernatorial race. By means of contrast the 2012 presidential election year saw 71.78% statewide voter turnout compared with the last “off” year the 2009 Gubernatorial election turnout of 40.4%.

Based on early absentee voting and historical averages, the Free Enterprise Forum anticipates the 2013 statewide election turnout to hover near 40%.  Locally, we may see higher than state average but we do not believe it will exceed 50%.

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Based on this projection, roughly half of registered voters likely will not vote this cycle.  Therefore, regardless of the locality, this year’s campaign will come down to which campaign motivates their voters to show up at the polls.

Ballot BoxGet Out The Vote, known as “GOTV”, campaigns have been underway by the major parties, and special interest groups, for a number of weeks.  Likely voters are being contacted via mail, phone, and in person by party operatives and candidates.  Historically, this type of “ground game” can make the difference.  We have seen the amount of shoe leather candidates put into the campaign can have a higher return than signs and advertising in many of the local races.

Every vote matters as evidenced by several recent close elections.  In the 2009 Samuel Miller District Race in Albemarle County, Duane Snow won a three way Board of Supervisors contest by 264 votes. The same year, Shaun Kenney won his Fluvanna Supervisor race by 33 votes. In 2011, Supervisor Davis Lamb won his Ruckersville seat by just 15 votes (with 41 votes going to a candidate who had dropped out of the race). 

Typically turnout elections favor those candidates with well defined and energized constituencies.  While there are a multiplicity of local constituencies with varying levels of organization, the question of election day is which of these constituencies are both motivated and energized.  Put succinctly, what half will show up?Badge

The Free Enterprise Forum is a non partisan public policy organization, as such we embrace elections as the political marketplace for ideas.  We sincerely thank the candidates who are making the sacrifice to run for public office.  We strongly encourage everyone to make your voice heard by voting. 

The candidates have done their job by running now it is up to you – Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 am to 7 pm.—VOTE

If you do not know where you vote, click here for your polling place.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

2013 Local Government Spending Index Released

Study Finds Disparity in Local Government Spending

 

Charlottesville, VA – As political candidates are vying for election and local governments are starting their FY2015 budget process, a new study shows that the rate of increases in local government spending vary dramatically.    The third iteration of the “Choices and Decisions” report, conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum, developed a locality-specific local cost of government spending index (LGSI).  The report, which studied fiscal years 1990-2012, identified the City of Charlottesville as the locality with the greatest increase in LGSI.

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “The goal of the LGSI is to inform and promote dialog.  The comparison of local spending trends, combined with population data provides citizens an objective tool to evaluate spending decisions.  Equipped with this data, citizens can ask better questions of elected officials during the budget season”.

The LGSI is based on self reported data required to be provided to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts.  The numbers focus exclusively on the operating budget of each municipality. This number will not include capital expenditures thus avoiding having single-year spikes in capital spending skew the results or interpretation of the data.

 2013 FINAL Combined Chart

It has been theorized that inflation adjusted spending would largely track changes in population and school enrollment.  While a correlation was found in some localities studied, this trend was not universal:

Albemarle County – adjusted for inflation, Albemarle County’s total spending increased by over 129% during the study period while population and school enrollment increased by 49% and 30.75% respectively.

City of Charlottesville – During the study period (1990-2012), Charlottesville experienced an average annual rate of population increase of just 11.36%, the smallest of the municipalities being studied. In addition, Charlottesville experienced a cumulative decline in School enrollment (- 4.38%), by far the largest decline in the study group in school enrollment (Nelson -1.29%).

In contrast, inflation-adjusted operating expenditures increased at 79.37% during the study period.  The LGSI in Charlottesville was 176.31 in 2009, but had declined the following two years.  In FY2012, Charlottesville’s LGSI had increased by 5 points to 156.41 still markedly below its 2009 apex.

In FY2012 per capita spending is as follows (in 2012$):

In FY2012 per capita spending was as follows (in 2012$):

Albemarle – $2,837.55

Charlottesvlle – $4,689.66

Fluvanna – $2,129.75

Greene – $2,487.05

Louisa – $2,442.55

Nelson – $2,33.35

It was also theorized that growth in inflation-adjusted per capita spending among the localities would be similar because of the high percentage of programs mandated by the state and operated by the localities.  In contrast, the analysis clearly indicates wide variation in per-capita spending decisions made by the localities.  During the study period, Charlottesville had the greatest increase spending per capita at 61.07%, Albemarle increased 54.24%, the balance of the localities increased less than 50%.  Nelson County (29.8%) had the lowest increase.

It was also anticipated that school enrollment growth would track population growth. While it does [with 2 exceptions] in every instance the percentage growth in school enrollment was smaller than the growth in population.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization dedicated to individual economic freedom.  The entire report, and supporting documentation, can be accessed under Reports Tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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Reading the Local Tax Revenue Cereal Box

By Neil Williamson, President

Feet-on-treadmills-e1325683225938Many people make New Year’s resolutions to live healthier.  Some of these folks fill the local gyms for the first couple weeks of the year.  You know the type, hyper-energized to make a difference by adding exercise to their routine as they strategically park their car closest to the health club entrance.

However, those individuals who are most successful with their healthy resolutions recognize not only exercise (output) is important but what, andcerealboxesnutrition how much, you eat has a direct, dramatic impact on wellness levels.

How does this possibly relate to local government? 

Please let me explain.

The local government budget season is now upon us.  The annual, and often substantiated, cries of unfunded state mandates echo from Palmyra to Lovingston.  While “equalized” tax rates and assessment accuracy continue to be annual topics of controversy, The Free Enterprise Forum is examining the local tax revenue cereal box to see if there is anything we can learn from the revenue types and trends.

In the City of Charlottesville, for instance, almost 12% of all FY2013 General Fund revenue comes from the City/County Revenue Sharing agreement.  This is the second largest source of revenue behind only Real Estate Taxes which, at $50,074,178, make up just over 34% of General Find revenue.

house redIn the County Administrator’s proposed budget, Fluvanna County anticipates their real estate tax revenues will exceed $20.7 Million for FY2013.  This is more than double their actual collections for FY2011.  Real Estate Taxes are projected to make up more than 50% of their Local General Fund revenue.    

This compares favorably with Greene County where FY2013 Real Estate tax revenue is projected to be just over $12.5 million and represents just over 50% of total local revenueNelson County Real Estate Tax Revenue makes up 62% of its local revenue.

In Albemarle County FY12/13 Budget totals $311.7 million dollars.  According to the proposed budget the largest portion of revenue is coming from Real Estate taxes which is expected to generate $111.9 million or 50.4% of all local revenue.

Louisa County has the highest percentage of local tax revenue from property taxes with 87% of all local revenue represented by property taxes.  Interestingly in Fairfax County, 60.1% of Local General Tax Revenue comes from property taxes; to the tune of $2.1 Billion dollars. 

It is important to note that all of the above numbers include both residential and commercial real estate taxes. 

So of all of these localities, Charlottesville has the lowest percentage of General Fund Revenue from Real Estate at just over a third of local revenue. 

In addition, based on our initial analysis it seems that the recession is actually causing local governments to be increasingly dependent on local property taxes. 

Just as your doctor might suggest just exercising won’t make you fit, should we be looking at our local revenue sources?

While the budget battles wage on the Free Enterprise Forum asks rather than jockeying for what specific spending program should be increased or decreased what if localities worked to grow the revenue side of the ledger?

Just an idea.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and  Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org